In Islam, marriage is a blessed contract between a man and a woman, in which each becomes “permitted” to the other, and both begin the long journey of love, cooperation, harmony and tolerance, where one feels at ease with each other, and finds serenity, fulfillment and satisfaction in the company of the other. This means that determining one’s partner is of the utmost importance for Muslim men and women. The Qu’ran has described this relationship between a man and a woman in the most touching of terms:
And among His signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]…
The righteous woman is the pillar, cornerstone and foundation of the Muslim family. She is seen as the greatest joy in a man’s life, as the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu allayhi wa sallam) said “This world is nothing but temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this world is a righteous woman.” (Sahih Muslim, 10/56, Kitab al-rida)
The hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah who reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu allayhi wa sallam) said
A woman is sought in marriage for four reasons: wealth, social status, beauty and deen (piety), So seek the one with deen – may your hands be rubbed with dust.
This hadeeth does not encourage marrying a woman for her beauty, lineage or wealth. Rather, what it means is that these are the things that people look for in marriage. Some look for a wife who is beautiful, some look for a wealthy wife, and some look for a person who is religiously committed i.e. a person with deen. This last part is what Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu allayhi wa sallam) encouraged when he said “Seek the one with deen – may your hands be rubbed with dust”, because one who is seeking to follow the right way should seek one is religiously committed. Also, the expression “May your hands be rubbed with dust” is a common expression used during Prophet Muhammad’s (Sallallahu allayhi wa sallam) time and it was not meant literally, rather it is an exclamation phrase reflecting encouragement or applause.
In this earthly life, a righteous wife is the main cause of happiness, on the other hand an evil wife is the main cause of misery. Thus, the first quality to look for in a wife is that of righteousness. Sa’d Bin Abi Waqqas reported that Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu allayhi wa sallam) said that
There are four sources of happiness and four sources of misery. Among the sources of happiness are:
1. A good wife who pleases you when you look at her; and when you are away from her, you trust her in regard to herself and your property.
2. An easy ride that enables you to catch up with your companions.
3. A house that is spacious and of many facilities.
4. A good neighbor.
And among the sources of misery are:
1. An evil wife who dismays you when you look at her, who uses her tongue against you, and who, when you are away from her, you would not trust her in regard to herself or your property.
2. A stubborn ride that if you whip it would tire you, and if you leave it alone you would not be able to catch up with your companions.
3. A tight house of limited facilities.
4. An evil neighbor.